Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

Post image for “None of the delays of last year will be tolerated.”–Adams Family Letters, Charles Francis Adams, Jr., to his brother, Henry.

“None of the delays of last year will be tolerated.”–Adams Family Letters, Charles Francis Adams, Jr., to his brother, Henry.

March 22, 2013

Adams Family Civil War letters; US Minister to the UK and his sons.

Camp of 1st Mass. Cavly
Sunday, March 22, 1863

I Am glad you have come to my conclusion as to the best basis for an end to this war. Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and all west of the Mississippi was my theory, I think, in my letters from Hilton Head last July and was, I recollect, stigmatized by you as “English.” I am glad you have come round to it and wish the Administration would do the same. Meanwhile things are improving here, though the weather continues abominable, beastly, unbearable. I wish I could go to Boston just to get rid of the east winds, which are increasing and bring with them almost daily snow, rain and sleet, or, now and then, watery, cold, blue sky. But the army is decidedly improving, and is, I imagine, in a far better condition than ever before. It will improve daily too, and if Hooker acts as judiciously as indications would warrant us in hoping, we shall, I think, by the first of June be again within sight of Richmond with no very serious loss. The plan of the campaign, I think I see, and, if I do, it is only the execution of McClellan’s mutilated scheme of a year ago. When the roads permit, a large column will be rapidly pushed forward from Fortress Monroe, to cut off the army on the Rappahannock from Richmond, thus necessitating its capture or the abandonment of the line of the Rappahannock. But Lee will not be caught; he will fall back on Richmond and, perhaps, on his way, try to crush the army of the Peninsula. This army here will push him back with great rapidity and regardless of loss and try to force an engagement, and will crush him if it succeeds. If it fails, as I think it will, it will join the Peninsula column and push on Richmond, and be before that city in one week after leaving its camp here. None of the delays of last year will be tolerated. The march on Richmond will be such a rush as was ours of last fall to Antietam. The distances are about the same, and now all preparations are made before hand, which they were not then. At Richmond will come the tug of war, and God spare the Infantry! As for the Cavalry, I think that we shall do one of two things: either push after Lee, if he allows himself to be caught in a tight place; or, which to my mind is more probable, if he slips off, be sent up towards Culpepper to operate on his left flank and annoy him. Anyhow we shall have work enough and fighting enough, and you may well wish us well through with it. Such are my views and theories and time will show how correct they are. As I understand it, they cover only McClellan’s old plans corrected in the light of a year’s experience. Of course the army will do something else, and meanwhile we’ll see how wrong I am.

As to your and my futures, they will probably work themselves out in their own way, and I trouble myself little about them. You a little misunderstand me however. My plans for life are altered little if any; it is only my way of coming at them. All my natural inclinations tend to a combination of literature and politics and always have. I would be a philosophical statesman if I could, and a literary politician if I must; but to command attention as either I must have a certain position of my own. A lawyer’s would have done, if I could have won it, but I failed in that and that is all over, for I could not go back to it. I must look about for another. Why should not the army serve my turn — if I hang to it? Here is support, leisure for reflection and promotion — two years would make me a Colonel almost surely and my very faculty with the pen will give me reputation as such, besides my chance of distinction as a soldier. Here then would be support and position for ten years, and then, at thirty-seven I may hope to have reached that position of my own which will enable me to leave the army and to devote the rest of my life to those pursuits in which I can best play my part in the plan of the universe. This is all that my “avowal of belligerent intentions for life” amounts to, and why is not the plan a good one? You do not say it is not. So far as I now see, it is my only alternative with a long period of aimless indolence. I can’t think of coming abroad to stay without some definite plan for the future. I see only this. I am twenty-eight years old in two months and at that age a man cannot afford to say “I will devote four years to seeing the world and thinking of what I will do.” At that age my father had a son named Charles….

I begin to realize that I have made a mistake in not getting a furlough, for I find myself most thoroughly played out with the army and camp life — out of spirits, desponding and blue, and all for the sake of a few days’ change. It is in this mood, always brought on me by monotony and camp life, that I continually imagine that I am going to be hit in the next fight. When we move the mood passes away and my faith in my luck and future revives….

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